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US Track tops Olympic medal count from Beijing

Posted: August 9, 2012 7:30 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2012 7:30 p.m.

From left: United States' Will Claye, silver, Italy's Fabrizio Donato, bronze, and United States' gold medal winner Christian Taylor, celebrate after the men's triple jump final in London on Thursday.

 

LONDON (AP) — All those podium visits inside Olympic Stadium are adding up for the Americans.

The U.S. Track and Field program claimed four more medals Thursday night to reach 24 for the London Games, eclipsing its total from Beijing and moving closer to its "Project 30" goal.

After the disappointing performance in 2008, then-CEO Doug Logan appointed a commission to look at what was wrong and endorsed the mission of winning 30 medals.

The team is on its way, thanks to a number of field events — many of them taking place in the long shadow that Usain Bolt is casting over the track with his two gold-medal sprints.

At almost the exact time Bolt was crossing the finish line, Christian Taylor and Will Claye, college teammates at Florida and close friends, wrapped up gold and silver, respectively, in the triple jump.

Shortly after Bolt had finished his long victory lap, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee gave the U.S. another 1-2 finish in the decathlon.

The four-medal evening came on the heels of a seven-medal night at the track that included two in women's high jump.

"The field events have been doing awesome," Claye said. "The jumps, at the last Olympics, no one made it to the finals. This year we have a lot of medals in the jumps. There's a lot of us young guys, too. We are really making a name for ourselves and helping Team USA win medals."

In Beijing, Jamaica won 11 medals at the track — impressive for a country of about 2.7 million.

Buoyed by sheer numbers up and down the lineup of events, the United States led all nations with 23. But that matched the country's second-lowest total since 1992, and two medals were squandered when both 4x100-meter relay teams dropped the baton. So instead of celebrating after Beijing, the U.S. track team returned home and tried to regroup.

The leaders who took over for Logan only tepidly embraced the 30-medal goal, saying it might be a reach. But they might just get there.

As always, the Americans have a good chance to medal in each of the four relay races. They could contend for as many as three more: women's high jump (Chaunte Lowe), men's 5,000 meters (Bernard Legat) and men's marathon (Meb Keflezighi).

"It's infectious," U.S. men's coach Andrew Valmon said. "When you think about coming in, we had one team meeting. We made it about the athletes and talked about what we needed to do, heard the message one time, embraced it and took on the challenge. It's their team. I'm thoroughly impressed. Look at the age of these athletes: they're 19, 20, 21. They're people that maybe the media didn't expect to do what they're doing but popping out and getting medals.

"We're really, really on a roll right now. We want to keep it going."

Although world champion Jenny Simpson was knocked out of the women's 1,500 meters and the Americans failed to reach the podium in the men's 400 meters for the first time since 1980, they picked up the slack with two surprises.

Leonel Manzano became the first American to win a medal in the metric mile since 1968, when distance star Jim Ryun took silver. And Galen Rupp was the surprise silver medalist in the 10,000-meter race, the first American since 1964 to win any sort of medal in the event.

There were no stunners Thursday. Taylor, Claye, Eaton and Hardee were expected to medal.

If the remaining hopefuls do the same, "Project 30" will be complete.

"We're all here to win," Taylor said. "We have that mindset that everyone has to contribute. It's a team feeling again."

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